Pro-Trump and Anti-Trump groups met in the streets in Berkeley, California Saturday, descending into violence that swept across social media. 21 people were arrested during the confrontation that was billed as a “free speech” Patriots Day rally — described as more of a white supremacist rally to some in attendance — and the third time similar groups had clashed in Berkeley in recent months according to the LA Times. It was a separate event from the many Tax Day protests that peacefully happened in several other cities across the country.
highly trained militants from both the far-left and far-right engaging in very serious and intense street fighting in berkeley today pic.twitter.com/LRfPnDlYWf
— New York Year Zero (@newyorkyearzero) April 16, 2017
According to Buzzfeed News, 200-300 people were estimated to be involved in the demonstrations and initially gathered in a local city park area before spilling into the streets of downtown. 11 were injured in the numerous scuffles that broke out, many of which were captured overheard by television cameras or broadcast live on Periscope and social media. Some reporters on the ground noted a lack of police presence at the event, explained by the modest size of the Berkeley police department according to Buzzfeed:
“The City of Berkeley Police Department is a small to medium-size department,” he said. “Our police department total is 176. I can tell you most of that 176 is here today.”
With no official communication between the city and protesters, officers were forced to estimate how many demonstrators would show up, [Berkeley Police Officer Byron White] said.
“The amount of people at the park for the demonstration was in the hundreds,” he said. “It’s a challenge for us to keep that amount of demonstrators inside that area with the amount of people we had. It would require another level of force for us to do that.”
The LA Times adds that Berkeley police requested assistance from the nearby Oakland police department, placing at least 200 police officers on the ground by late afternoon.
As noted above, police had no formal communication with either protest and were forced to follow social media postings. Several posts promoting and planning the event were posted to Facebook and Twitter, with many involved showing up expecting violence. Demonstrators on both sides wore helmets or held shields and several can be seen in photographs holding sticks, pipes, and pepper spray. Police had reportedly banned several items, including baseball bats and pipes according to Buzzfeed, with police adding that several also released gas and fireworks during skirmishes at the protest while several knives and stun guns were confiscated according to the LA Times.
Those in attendance seemed to represent a mixed bag on both sides. Anti-fascist protesters mixed with those opposing Trump supporters, while the pro-Trump side was mixed with apparent white supremacists, bikers, and members of the Oathkeepers group of Montana: